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Byzantium: The Lost Empire (1997)

John Romer  |  NR |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: John Romer
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Letterboxed, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Koch Vision
  • DVD Release Date: August 14, 2007
  • Run Time: 208 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000QGE86A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,325 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Byzantium: The Lost Empire" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

For more than 1,000 years, the Byzantine Empire was the eye of the entire world – the origin of great literature, fine art and modern government. Heir to Greece and Rome, the Byzantine Empire was also the first Christian empire. Now, after a year of filming on three continents, TLC unlocks this ancient civilization, spanning 11 centuries and three continents. Pass through the gates of Constantinople, explore the magnificent mosque of Hagia Sophia and see the looted treasures of the empire now located in St. Marks, Venice.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
88 of 89 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shining Light in the Dark Ages July 5, 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Byzantium, Volume 1, brings to life an empire that, while seemingly distant, is very closely linked to the evolution of Western Civilization. The first part of a two video set, containing two 50 minute segments first aired on The Learning Channel, Volume 1 traces the growth of the first Christian empire, one that lasted for over a thousand years. Volume 2 traces the maturity and decline of Byzantium through its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. John Romer, the author and on-screen guide for the series, breathes life into the city and the powerful ideas that made the Byzantium a thriving cultural and commercial center while western Europe was slogging through the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages. At its height, Byzantium housed the most precious Christian relics, including a piece of Christ's cross. Located on the border of Europe and Asia, it ruled an empire that extended across Asia Minor and the Balkans. Then, after the rise of Islam, the empire shrank until little was left outside the city walls. Byzantium turned to Europe for help in fighting the infidels, only to have its own city sacked by the Crusaders whose help it sought. Venice, its erstwhile trading partner, carried off many of its artistic masterpieces. The Hagia Sophia, originally built as a Christian church, became Istanbul's most famous mosque. And the scholars who had kept alive the study of Greek for more than a millennium fled to Europe where they helped lay the groundwork for the Renaissance. Byzantium, the video, takes us on a visually sumptuous journey to key locations throughout the empire, while putting a human face on the key actors in the history of this unique and vital empire. I never suspected I would find this story as compelling as it turned out to be.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great video series May 17, 2002
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
Many Americans know little of any history, even their own. And what little they know of world history is mostly caricature. This series of four videos goes a long way toward helping to explain one of the least known of world histories, that of Byzantium. John Romer does a super job of putting the long history of Byzantium into some kind of context for us. The concept that the Roman Empire did not "fall" but survived in the East until the 15th century may be astonishing to most of us, but so it was. Romer also deals fairly with the sack of Byzantium by the Crusaders in 1204 (as opposed to the vitriolic treatment given it by Terry Jones in another recent video series). Particularly wonderful is the second episode of the series which deals with the role of icons in Byzantine culture and with the brutal history of Byzantine iconoclasm. The art and architecture of Byzantium forms a large part of the series and with great justice, as a reflection of the society that produced it.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - plus, the host is enjoyable! October 19, 2007
Many years ago, I rented this series on VHS tapes and enjoyed the presentation tremendously - was waiting for a DVD production and will likely purchase the set - I had absolutely no problem w/ the host of this series and found him quite enthusiastic! With today's modern computer graphics & recreations, the series might certainly be improved, but believe me that this presentation will give you a realistic feeling for the great empire of Byzantium (regardless of how petty one might be in its pronunciation!) - at least rent & then decide!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Romer masterpiece June 1, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Recent negative reviews of John Romer's 1997 documentary series reveal how much documentary film making has changed in the last decade. For those of us who are Romer fans, most of this change has been for the worse. A concentration on historical recreation, flashy CG effects and supplying 'facts', typical of much History Channel product of recent years (predicated as it is on the notion that most watchers suffer from a major attention deficit problem and lack a general historical knowledge, or any ability to use TV as a springboard to further reading), has dumbed down a lot of what is offered. Thus documentary making, with a few notable exceptions, has largely become a niche sub market of the 'Entertainment' industry.

John Romer never treated his audience as idiots or the television medium as necessarily simplistic and trivializing. His treatment of historical subjects is also strongly thematic, especially concerned with the history of ideas, and as such inevitably selective in nature.

So yes, this series could have dealt with Basil the Bulgar Slayer, or the consequences of the Battle of Manzikert, or how to make icons or what Byzantines wore or hundreds of other important or less unimportant events and developments, but its failure to do so is neither here nor there, and does not detract from the excellence of this series. It does not aim at completeness and its organization is on a higher and more ambitious level than providing a simple chronological narrative.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
First night I received the DVD set I stayed wathing this 208 min long
documentary till 2 AM in the morning.

Presenter, John Romer, is probably the best presenter of the documentaries I have ever seen on TV. His tells the stories of the greatest cultural and historical value in a lyrical, enaging personal style making you wanting to watch the whole documentary all in one viewing.

Being originally from this broader region, and having a foundation in the material itself I still found the tremendous value and the depth in this documentary. Learning was constant, but it never felt forced or dry.

Interestingly, there were no flashy maps, reenactments, big computer generated effects to "keep you interested". Contrary, at one point in the show John Romer pulls out the Rand McNally map of the Istambul, unfolds it and holding it on the ground, with a marker, draws the expected location of the once standing Imperial Palace.

Now, to answer the question that comsumers as well as Amazon equally care about:

Why should one buy this DVD?

You should do so:

- if you are interested in establishing the cultural and civilizational link between the Ancient Greece, Roman Empire and the Western Societies
of the medieval ages.

- understanding the origins of many essential Christian beliefs, rituals, traditions and symbolisms.

- learn essential historical and archeological facts about the Byzantium

With all that in mind I give this documentary an uncontested, shining 5 stars. I am now up to finding more documentaries with John Romer who is my new favorite TV personality.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I can watch this over and over
I can, and do, watch this pretty frequently. John Romer makes Constantinople come to life. I do take a little umbrage with his referring to it as "Byzantium"; that's an... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Chunky Style
4.0 out of 5 stars I had a hard time understanding this film
It took me awhile to get my head around this film on the Byzantine Empire. When you take out all of the pictures of the mosque of Hagia Sophia and the surrounding area you are left... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Richard B
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!
Jhon Romer's DVD is truly stunning! It deals with a thousand plus year empire apparently overlooked by recent historians. Read more
Published 12 months ago by William M. Price
4.0 out of 5 stars Byzantium
Great show about Byzantium. Too bad there's little documentaries about Byzantium. It's was a first time I watched a John Romer documentary. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Pen Name
5.0 out of 5 stars good overview of the eastern roman empire.
The eastern roman empire did not fall until 1453 a.d. , yet the snobs out there have decided to call them the byzantine empire. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Michael Dobey
4.0 out of 5 stars Historians appreciate this well-sourced documentary
American students of history are served well by Professor Romer's documentary. He is the first historian we have seen, who documents the fact that Constantine the Great (313 ad)... Read more
Published 18 months ago by E. Matta
5.0 out of 5 stars History made entertaining
This is a hard video set to find at a reasonable price. Fortunately I lucked out. Discs are in very good shape, although the original box is missing (no problem).
Published 22 months ago by tom
3.0 out of 5 stars Byzantium
Let me start by saying I enjoyed this video because of the very interesting information in this video. Lots of sites visited and described with historical significance . Read more
Published on March 23, 2012 by teacherlkc
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Show
True to the title, this gives a great introductoin to the history of the lost Byzantine Empire. But it is just an introduction to the topic, so those who are already familiar with... Read more
Published on March 4, 2012 by nervousfarter
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting subject made painfully dull!
Let me start by saying that I'm a huge fan historical documentaries and have been to many of the sites shown in this film, but "Byzantium, The Lost Empire" is basically just hours... Read more
Published on October 22, 2011 by Maya Manchester
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